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Woody Paige: No luck for Irishman Shawn O'Malley at Rockies' spring training

March 3, 2018 Updated: March 6, 2018 at 4:39 pm
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Seattle Mariners' Shawn O'Malley puts down a bunt for a single, allowing Mariners' Leonys Martin to score against the Los Angeles Angels during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Scottsdale, Ariz. - Shawn O'Malley deserves a break.

This is not the one he wanted.

At 30, O'Malley is the personification of a career minor-leaguer. He's been on a journey, man. Shawn has played for 15 teams in a dozen seasons. He has played seven positions. He has played for Catfish, Stone Crabs (twice), Renegades, Bees, Aqua Sox, Rainiers (three times), Desert Dogs, Travelers (twice) and the Montgomery, Ala., Biscuits (no gravy) for three consecutive seasons.

"Montgomery was ... well ... interesting. I met my wife there,'' he tells me in front of his locker.

And he played for one of baseball's most fabled teams - the Durham Bulls.

I asked: "Did you ever feel like Crash Davis'' - the fictional baseball player portrayed by Kevin Costner in the classic movie "Bull Durham'' who said: "Yeah, I was in The Show. I was in The Show for 21 days once - the greatest 21 days in my life.''

APTOPIX Astros Mariners Baseball
Seattle Mariners center fielder Shawn O'Malley dives for a fly ball by Colby Rasmus during the fourth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear) 

O'Malley replies: "Until you mentioned that, I never thought about it.''

O'Malley has played 124 games in The Show - 11 with the Angels in 2014, 24 with the Mariners in '15 and another 89 in Seattle in '16. He could be called Mr. September (Call-Up).

"Never had another job. Never thought about quitting. Sometimes I hate baseball, but I get over that quick because I love playing the game.

"If I keep working hard every day, I'm going to get my break.''

Shawn's had his major league moment - a home run on Irish Heritage Night at Safeco Field in Seattle in front of his Irish-American family. He's from Richland, Washington, and was all-state in football and baseball. He was drafted out of high school in the fifth round by the Rays in 2006. He has been on a long road trip ever since.

Red Sox Mariners Baseball
Seattle Mariners' Shawn O'Malley rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Boston Red Sox during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) 

A couple of recent seasons O'Malley believed opportunity finally was at his door. First time, he broke his wrist. Last year, at spring training, he was rushed to the hospital in Arizona and underwent an emergency appendectomy. When he returned, Shawn injured his (right) throwing shoulder and had arthroscopic surgery. He didn't play a game the entire season.

After being cut on twice, he was cut by the Mariners.

Just before Christmas, the Rockies signed O'Malley to a minor-league contract and gave him an invitation to camp with the Big Boys. He reported with the catchers and pitchers last month - to get a head start and perhaps because he can play every position but catcher and pitcher.

"I'm a utility man,'' he says. "You want a late defensive replacement in the outfield, a shortstop who can step in, a pinch-hitter, a pinch-runner, someone who can put down a bunt or move a runner over, a second baseman, a right fielder.''

Some prospects have two, three, maybe five tools. O'Malley is a 12-tool player.

He's also a switch-hitter and a DH.

Bud Black bubbled over the Irishman nobody in Colorado had ever heard of.

"I'm going to bat O'Malley leadoff on St. Patrick's Day,'' Black promised, with only a slight smirk.

The Rox manager said, seriously, that The Oman offered the versatility and experience perfect for a 25th roster player. "What we're looking for is that comfort that he looks good at every position, that he can make a play in the hole from short, he can man the outfield positions and go get balls, turn a double play and, with switch-hit capabilities, get some hits, get a bunt down, hit-and-run, steal a base.''

Astros Mariners Baseball
Seattle Mariners' Shawn O'Malley hits a go-ahead two-RBI single against the Houston Astros in the eighth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) 

O'Malley played in five of the Rockies' first seven exhibitions - hitting (5 of 15 for a .333 average), scoring, driving in a run, pivoting well on a double play, catching all the balls, making excellent catches and doing everything but cleaning out the clubhouse.

On Friday afternoon at Talking Stick, O'Malley started at second and had assists on four of the first five infielder grounders.

Then, on a smash up the middle, O'Malley made a sensational diving grab - and was hurt. "I was hoping that it was just the shock, and I'd be OK.''

He pointed at the middle of the thick wrapping on his right hand. "The third marcipal bone. I never heard of a marcipal."

O'Malley dropped his head and said softly: "Six weeks.''

Black would say later that the injury was "a shame. He's been playing really well and made a great catch on the play. He's a hard little kid. ... He had a real chance to be with us on opening day.''

O'Malley, who will undergo a third surgery in a year this week, will miss St. Patrick's Day and the season opener - and will be back in the minor leagues for a 13th year when he comes back. No luck for the Irishman.

Bad break.

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